The FBI is conducting three times as many domestic terrorism investigations than it was five years ago, with 70 percent of its open cases focused on “civil unrest” and anti-government activity, according to FBI documents and government specialists. The Bureau has also quietly changed the general classification of white supremacy, antisemitism, abortion-, and anti-LGBTQI+-related extremism to “hate crimes” rather than “terrorism.” Since terrorism remains the top national security priority, this has lowered the visibility and resources dedicated to those issues.
The FBI considers all violent acts (and threats of violence) with a political motive to be terrorism, a senior government official explains to Newsweek. But not all acts of extremism are considered terrorism. “If an act is focused on the government, it’s terrorism,” the source says. “But if extremism is focused on private individuals or institutions, it’s considered just a crime or classified as a hate crime.” The source was granted anonymity to speak about classified matters.
On one level, the senior government source says, this is a more precise definition of domestic terrorism: the label is applied only to acts with political motives and mass casualties. But in reality, the tweaked classification inserts the FBI and counterterror investigators into the political life of the nation.